For the East St Arts / Convention House residency I am undertaking research for my project ‘Circular Sferics’. This will explore the duality of our technologies being both of the earth and used as detection devices for measuring, through creating a circular technological approach using sound and sculptural process. I’m using DIY environmental sensing technologies to record sounds of the natural environment using self built radio antennae, and my AURA MACHINE VLF and EMF detector circuits.
The recordings will focus on sferics (atmospherics), the natural electrical phenomena detected by radio antennae, which will be analysed as data to develop a methodology of visualising these as 3D geometries. Working at Convention House I will learn new skills in 3D ceramic printing and 3D scanning to create new sculptural objects – made out of clay – completing the circle as new material forms.
I am looking forward to working with clay, the original technological material and representing unseen sferic phenomena as physical matter. The cyclical format of the residency explores themes around the circular economy, deep time and technological e-waste through sonic materiality. I will also be running an electronics workshop, developing my knowledge around environmental sculpture through mentoring and I look forward to getting involved and contributing to the Convention House community.
The work is inspired by my research and reading into natural radio and environmental sculpture. In lockdown I undertook the Radio x Rectangle course, learning to build short wave radios, crystal oscillators and antennae, in tandem I got interested in listening to natural electricity through reading Earth Sound Earth Signal by Douglas Kahn, A Geology of Media by Jussi Parikka and was inspired by the great Alvin Lucier’s experiments in the 80s recording sferics.
PHASE ONE: FABRICATION | ELECTRONICS | RECORDINGS
For the first stage I have been collaborating with the wonderful Daniel Simpkins (and fellow Rogue Studios artist) at KUNSTRUCT, who worked with me to fabricate and realise my designs. We began with the material, opting for a dark grey Valcrohmat with yellow flecks, an ethically sourced wooden composite that when varnished takes on a look of stone. Dan meticulously hand crafted each block for the sculpture, the forms of which were algorithmically generated (this sculpture is AURA#3 Wood, the third in the series of my aura machine sculptures developed via my methodology of neurally generating sculptural works) and then further designed by myself. The sculpture needed to be functional also with in-built speaker chamber, a detachable loop antenna and as an outdoor piece it needed to be mobile for recording in fields.
The electronics and interface for the piece encompass a VLF (very low frequency) circuit, a patchable mixer where you can opt to plug in the EMF detector and stereo amplification through a bass speaker and two mids. There is a detachable loop antenna and for grounding a large earth spike, I worked with long term collaborator Creative Technologist Chris Ball who helped me with circuit amplification and testing at Yorkshire Sculpture Park for our first recordings, which attracted a fair few cows! You can listen to these first test recordings below.
Thanks to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Invisible Flock for hosting me for these first recordings, and to Shazia and Matt at East St Arts for their ongoing support.
In phase two I will be translating these sounds into 3D geometries for new sculptural ideas and working with the clay 3D printer in the Convention House maker space.
This work has been supported by East Street Arts and explored at Convention House in Leeds.